The Self-Awareness Guy

Leadership and Self-Awareness

10 Things Bosses Do to Make Things More Difficult for Their Employees

10 Things Bosses Do to Make Things More Difficult for Their Employees

I've coached and trained many bosses over the years and I've frequently noticed that many of them do their best to lead well but don't truly understand the impact of their actions or how they might adjust their leadership approach to get better results. A large percentage lead in a way that reflects what they experienced in their families or picked up along the way from other reactive bosses. Here are ten things bosses do, mostly unconsciously, to make things more difficult for their employees.

1. Lack of Consistency

These bosses say one thing and do another, change the rules midstream and treat some employees differently from others. This creates a work atmosphere where employees don't know what to expect and are sometimes required to change their approaches midstream even when everything is going well.

2. Limited Self-Awareness

This type of boss talks a lot about how insightful and in touch with his leadership style she is but it's not reflected in what she does in the workplace. What you'll often observe is someone who routinely destroys things in her path but doesn't seem to have a clue that she's causing the chaos.

3. Losing Their Temper Unpredictably

They get angry at people or exasperated easily; sometimes over trivial or arbitrary events. This makes everyone's job more difficult because they have to avoid the boss' wrath instead of communicating and participating openly in the workplace.

4. Don't Explain Things Clearly

These bosses lack the ability to explain processes and procedures, which is really just a basic lack of understanding of how to communicate effectively. They expect everyone to understand their garbled communication style and get upset when employees don't. They rarely ask their employees if they're explaining clearly or if they understand.

5. Don't Apply the Same Rules to Themselves

They enforce different rules for different people. For example, they ask people to get to work on time but don't do it themselves. When bosses have more leeway or don't follow the same stringent standards that "regular" employees do, it sends an unambiguous message that some employees are more important than others.

6. Micromanage and Don't Delegate Effectively

This boss doesn't trust her employees to do their own work unattended. She feels she has to supervise every part of the operation even when it makes things run less smoothly. This person also has difficulty letting other people work independently because she doesn't want to let go of the power and control.

7. Don't Encourage Employees to Use Their Talents

These bosses are so wrapped up in their own needs and reacting to every event in the workplace that they fail to recognize that their employees have valuable talents that could make their workplace run even better. Instead, they label their employees and tell them to stick to their job descriptions.

8. Lack of Organization

These bosses are simply overwhelmed by their job and are hanging on for dear life. They make things more difficult for everyone by not prioritizing tasks, creating timelines and setting clear expectations. This leads to them constantly being in crisis mode trying to fix something they've overlooked.

9. Look for Ways to Trip People Up

These bosses don't celebrate the things their employees are doing well; they obsess on what's going wrong. They'll even go as far as setting people up for failure by asking them to do things that are outside their area of expertise or where they lack training and then say, "I told you so," or "It's not as easy as it looks."

10. Expect Employees to Prove Themselves

This type of boss believes that employees are constantly trying to take advantage of her and the organization and requires them to constantly prove their worth. She'll often double-check the work employees do "just to make sure" it's done correctly. She'll also say things like, "You're suspect until proven otherwise," or "Trust is earned."

Take a moment to think about whether you do any of these things and how your actions might affect the functioning of your workplace. If you recognize yourself in any of these examples you might find it helpful to try new ways of doing things to achieve better results. The goal isn't to make things more difficult but rather to make things easier for everyone in your workplace. What will you do to help your employees succeed?


20 Ways to Tell Your Organization Doesn’t Value People

20 Ways to Tell Your Organization Doesn’t Value People

Proactive leaders "get it" about treating their employees well but I run across many others who don't share that perspective.  Many leaders and organizations tend to focus on the bottom line at the exclusion of everything else.  This leaves their employees struggling to keep up with ever-increasing demands to do more work in less time and at a higher level.  This has the predictable result of burning people out and creating unhappy workplaces.

I've found that organizations can be highly productive and support their employees but that approach isn't even on the radar in many workplaces.
Leaders and organizations demonstrate how much they value their people by the actions they take.  Here are 20 signs you might be valuing other things instead of your employees.

  1. You have high employee turnover.
  2. You give out commands but don't ask for feedback.
  3. HR is just a way to avoid lawsuits.
  4. People get shown the door quickly if they don't like company policies or go against the status quo.
  5. There is low morale and motivation and people seem unhappy.
  6. Productivity is low even though you've tried many things to increase it.
  7. Your employees shrug or look perplexed when you say, "Employees come first in this company."
  8. Your workplace is consistently more stressful than it has to be and it's affecting people's performance.
  9. Leadership doesn't listen to employees.
  10. Leadership makes unilateral decisions without seeking input from employees at every level.
  11. Information is hoarded at the top.
  12. There's little two-way communication between leadership and employees.
  13. Employees are viewed as expendable, as in, "There's more where she came from," or, "If you don't like it, I've got a hundred other people who could fill this job."
  14. You offer very few opportunities for advancement.
  15. Limited or non-existent training and educational opportunities.
  16. You say things like, "At least he's got a job," or "I'm providing jobs for people," to justify a less than wonderful work environment.
  17. Touchy-feely is a bad word in your organization.
  18. Diversity is a scary and contentious concept in your workplace.
  19. You notice chronic ongoing conflict between employees.
  20. Lack of benefits for employees.

These types of behaviors happen all the time in innumerable workplaces.  The remarkable thing is that many leaders seem to think that it's the only way to run an organization.  Thankfully, we now know that we can create thriving and highly productive organizations while treating our employees well the moment leaders choose to do so.  What do you do to make sure your employees feel valued?



What Are Your Employees Saying About You?

What Are Your Employees Saying About You?

There is frequently a large gap between how leaders think they are perceived and what's really going on.  I enjoy talking with employees about how their bosses function because that's where the juicy stuff is. Employees have valuable insights on the strengths and areas for improvement of their supervisors and it can be very helpful to listen to their advice.

The opportunity that many leaders miss out on is using their employees' ideas to improve their leadership abilities or  how their workplaces function. This often happens because leaders simply don't have open, two-way communication with their employees.  When they open up the lines of communication they have access to the rich information and knowledge their employees possess.  This, in turn, helps leaders understand where they stand with their employees and what adjustments might be beneficial.  Ask yourself the following questions to asses the quality of your communication with your  employees.

1.  What percentage of time do you listen to your employees with no interruptions?

2.  What is the last great idea you got by listening to an employee?

3.  How is conflict dealt with in your organization?  What part does effective  communication play?

4.  What would your employees say about the morale and motivation in your organization?

5.  What advice would your employees give you about how to improve your organization?

6.  In what ways do your employees demonstrate they are comfortable talking with you?

7.  What do your employees say about you?

If you know the answers to these questions then you're likely practicing effective communication with your employees.  Chances are that you also know what they are saying about you.  If you don't have answers to these questions you can always make some adjustments to make sure you are connected to your employees.  What will you do to communicate more openly with your employees?



A Different Kind of Business Retreat

A Different Kind of Business Retreat

Leaders and organizations plan retreats to help bring employees together or conduct some planning but, too often, they endure events where everyone means well but nothing really gets done and people leave more confused than they were before.  It happens all the time because we tend to complicate things more than we need to.

Successful retreats help the participants accomplish what they want without creating more confusion or acting as a band-aid that doesn’t actually fix anything.  Here are some practical tips to think about before you plan your next retreat:

  • What do you want to accomplish?  Think of what your top priority is rather than trying to jam a million things into the agenda.
  • Make sure all key players are present, attendance is not optional.  I recommend that all top managers, including owners be present.
  • Do you have a plan for the event.  What will be happening and who will make it happen?
  • Do you have an outside facilitator with no vested interest or personal connections with the company to facilitate the event.
  • Have you scheduled enough time and secured a venue that allows interruption-free participation?
  • Is the location easy to access and is the venue comfortable and conducive to positive interaction?
  • Does everyone have a clear understanding of what will be happening at the retreat and who is expected to be there?
  • Have you thought of ways to encourage participation and make the event an enjoyable experience?

A carefully planned retreat can help your organization move forward, clarify your vision and focus your efforts.  The key is to plan an event that leaves people wanting to succeed rather than feeling confused.  What are your thoughts on creating a positive retreat?



Leadership and Encouraging Employee Critical Thinking

Leadership and Encouraging Employee Critical Thinking

Many leaders are in a position where they tell employees what to do and that's the end of the thinking process. A less-explored approach involves critical thinking, which is where you give employees the opportunity to arrive at their own insights rather than being dependent on you. Here are some ideas on how
to practice both leadership approaches, with and without critical thinking:

How to Practice Leadership without Thinking

  1. Tell people what to do.
  2. Supervise them constantly.
  3. Micromanage them.
  4. Dole out information only in small amounts.
  5. Give a lot of orders.
  6. Take the lead on everything.
  7. Ask for employees' input but always go with your ideas.
  8. Remind people that you make all the decisions.
  9. Criticize instead of praise.
  10. Marvel at what a wonderful leader you are.

How to Practice Leadership that Encourages Critical Thinking

  1. Encourage your employees to decide where to start working on any given project.
  2. Assume people are smart enough to do it.
  3. Let them know you're available if they have any questions or need any resources.
  4. Encourage them to come up with their own approach to completing the project.
  5. Allow people to share their insights about how the project went and make adjustments.

Inspirational leadership is about allowing people to think creatively and autonomously rather than being dependent on you. Employees who think for themselves are better prepared to deal with workplace challenges and contribute to building a healthy workplace. What will you do to encourage more critical thinking in your organization?